Development plans unveiled at Town Hall
October 31, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Lake Boren development, Mutual Materials site headline discussions
About 100 Newcastle residents got their first look at development plans for the Mutual Materials site, and proposals for Lake Boren Park improvements, at the city’s annual town hall meeting Oct. 22.
Representatives from AvalonBay Communities Inc., the firm chosen to purchase the 52-acre Mutual Materials site, met with Newcastle residents for the first time, presenting their conceptual plan for the property.
Brian Fritz, vice president of development, told attendees that the plan for the property comes directly from the city’s Comprehensive Plan which envisions the site as a “mixed-use center attracting local and regional residents alike.”
“Our job as developers and purchasers of property is to implement that vision so that it’s a growing and working part of the community,” he said.
The company is in the initial stages of the design phase, but using the Comprehensive Plan as a framework of the property’s development, AvalonBay created goals it hopes to implement in the site’s creation.
One goal is to develop a mixed-use center with a centralized public plaza. The site would have both retail and high-end rental housing, Fritz said.
The central square would include pedestrian pathways with decorative paving materials, space for outdoor dining and water features.
Another goal is to preserve and build upon the city’s wooded character. James Bradley, an architect with the project, said the intent is to make sure the company brings out the best of Newcastle in the development.
“It’s our sole job to really understand what are the amenities, and what are the positives that come out of the neighborhood and make sure we capture those and work with those,” he said.
The developers also talked about the vision for a large events lawn that could host community activities such as concerts, farmers markets or craft fairs. An interactive water feature is also under consideration for the site.
“We envision the space being as flexible as it needs to be,” Fritz said.
Fritz added that the company hopes to begin infrastructure work in a year, but residents shouldn’t expect to see significant structures until at least 18 months from now.
As for the design, Fritz said to expect a lot of brick, as a nod to the site’s previous use as a brick plant.
When asked to compare plans for the site to a local community, Fritz said the closest thing may be the Issaquah Highlands’ urban village concept that relies on a heavy network of sidewalks and trails to make commuting easy.
Lake Boren Park
City staff also presented conceptual designs for improvements to the north end of Lake Boren Park at the meeting.
Suggested upgrades included a larger, covered stage, a kid’s spray zone, widening and improving the beach area, shoreline boardwalks and the creation of a central meadow.
The city used polling devices to get feedback on the project, and 77 percent of those at the meeting said they agreed that improvements to Lake Boren Park would benefit the community.
A majority of the voters supported the idea of beach improvements, earning 63 percent of the vote. Most also liked the idea of upgrading the stage, with 47 percent saying they would support it.
Toward the end of the presentation, the staff admitted that the city likely does not have the funds for such improvements. They asked residents if they would be willing to pay for them, though, through a park levy.
The park levy would be paid over nine years, and would cost the owner of a house valued at $500,000 an additional $34 per year in property taxes.
A majority of the respondents said they would support the increase, with a combined 57 percent saying they are willing or very willing to pay for it. Some said they would be willing to pay, if the cost was lower, with 21 percent of the vote, while 22 percent said they were very unwilling.
On the Web
View the town hall meeting PowerPoint presentation at http://bit.ly/18A2wOg and listing to the audio from the event at http://bit.ly/1aFLaEB.